Thursday, May 29, 2008
Reassignments in county schools
By BARRY BURLESON
School’s out, but these are still busy times in the Marshall County district when it comes to administrative changes, summer projects and new programs such as dropout prevention.
Students in Potts Camp and Byhalia will find some changes in school leadership when they return in early August.
Leigh Anne Sanderson, principal at Mary Reid the past four years, is moving to Potts Camp School in the same position. Pat Kennedy, instructional facilitator at Byhalia High School this past school year, will be the new principal at Mary Reid.
Chris Ferrell, assistant principal at Byhalia Middle School for two years, will shift to Potts Camp School as assistant principal. Jennifer Gurley, teacher and coach at Byhalia Middle for one and a half years, is going into an administrative post as assistant principal at the same school.
The changes come about after the resignations of Potts Camp principal Tim Carter and assistant Ray Kennedy. The two are going to East Union in the same capacity.
“The people we are reassigning have a strong record in our district,” superintendent of education Don Randolph said. “Our expectations are high of these individuals.
“They are excited about their new positions and eager to move into these positions. Our priority is student achievement and we feel these assignments will raise the achievement level of the schools.”
Sanderson has 18 and a half years of experience in education. She has been with the Marshall County district eight years. She taught at Potts Camp School four years prior to the administrative post at Mary Reid.
She’s looking forward to going back to the high school.
“Honestly, I’m very excited,” Sanderson said. “Academically, high school is my background.
“It’s a new challenge, and I’m looking forward to it. I have a vision for the school.”
Pat Kennedy has 18 years experience in education, the majority of that as a math teacher. She has been employed eight years with the Marshall County School District.
She, too, is excited about her new leadership role, this one at Mary Reid.
“I am very grateful to Mr. Randolph for giving me the opportunity to serve the community in this capacity,” she said. “I truly feel that I have been blessed.
“I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be the principal of such a wonderful staff. I am looking forward to having a great year with teachers, students and the community.”
Ferrell has 18 years of experience in education – five years in the Marshall County district. He is a former teacher and coach at Potts Camp.
Gurley has seven and half years of experience in education. She was employed six years with the Memphis City Schools.
Randolph said several summer projects are on tap in the district.
The baseball and softball fields at Byhalia High School will be lighted – completed the outside athletic facilities there.
The gymnasium for Byhalia Elementary/Middle School will be air conditioned.
Mary Reid and Potts Camp schools will have window units replaced this summer with central air conditioning. This upgrade means all classrooms, gyms and office in the district will have central air and heat.
Ceilings will be lowered and new lighting installed at Mary Reid and Potts Camp schools.
“We will also paint, replace tiles and repair roofs as needed,” the superintendent said. “Sunscreens are being installed to conserve energy all over the district.
“Our schools and campuses are neat and clean, and we work daily to provide a safe environment for our students and teachers.”
The Marshall County School District is focused on dropout prevention as part of a State Department of Education program called “Get On The Bus.”
“Our goal is to do all we can to keep our kids in school,” said assistant superintendent R.C. Anderson, who is heading up the program locally.
Committees, composed of teachers, students, parents and community members, have been formed in the school district communities.
“Up until now, dropout prevention has just been toyed with,” he said. “Now it has become a real focus statewide. The state has challenged each district to come up with a plan.”
The district sent out approximately 40 letters inviting participation and received response from about half of those. Meetings of stakeholders have taken place, along with surveys of teachers, parents and students.
“We have put together a meaningful plan,” Anderson said, “and the state has looked at it and recommended very few corrections.”
He said the final draft of the district dropout prevention plan will be presented to the school board soon for approval. Then it will go back to the state for acceptance.
“We wish more community people would get involved in the plan,” Anderson said. “We will be sending more invitations.”
The district is also hoping to institute the GED program at the three high schools – Byhalia, H.W. Byers and Potts Camp.
“This, too, will be a key to dropout prevention,” Anderson said. “It will have an impact.”
Randolph recently approached the Marshall County Board of Supervisors about funding help with the GED program on the local level.
Presently, if the student attends GED classes outside the district, like at Northwest Community College, he or she is counted as a dropout in the school district.
Randolph said keeping the students in the county schools would boost achievement levels and improve the dropout rate.
He hopes to hire retirees to teach the GED classes. The estimated cost would be $150,000 for the part-time teachers and supplies.
Randolph said he would like to see the county redirect one mil of taxes for the GED program – not raise taxes.
Students in third-eighth grades, prior to the end of the school year, spent three days taking new MCT2 state tests. The three tests focused on reading, language/writing and math.
The tests are a whole new ball game, unlike the previous MCTs (Mississippi Curriculum Tests.).
“These new tests are very analytical,” said Jerry Moore, who is in charge of testing for the district.
Randolph said there was lots of preparation prior to testing.
“These new tests require lots of critical thinking,” Randolph said.
He said teachers were prepared through staff development, plus sample test items were incorporated into daily lesson plans.
“Teachers are always the key,” he said. “With the new tests, we had to give them the tools to teach the children to think critically. We taught the curriculum required by the State Department of Education.”
These are the tests that have given schools across the state a level 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 rating. But because of the new MCT2, those ratings will be not released in 2008.
“The new tests put a halt to the levels for this year,” Moore said. “It actually made the levels obsolete.
“It will take two years worth of tests to get a rating and show growth.”
MCT2 results will be given to the district likely by the end of summer.
“Then we will come back in the fall, look at what we did well and what we didn’t do well and attack it,” Randolph said. “The bar is set – we will know where we are.”
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